Internet Censorship is the control of access to information on the internet. Internet Censorship limits an individual’s access to what can be published, accessed, edited, and viewed on the internet. The intensity of internet censorship varies from country to country. In some cases, internet censorship is periodic, based on age, status, religious background, or ideology.
Internet censorship can be placed on people by parents, institutions, religious organizations, governments, and internet service providers.
When did Censorship Start?
The internet was initially made accessible to the public in 1991. It went relatively unsanctioned for another five years until 1996 when the United States Government enacted the communications decency acts, which placed a ban on indecent and offensive materials on the internet. Two years after the act was introduced, the U.S government passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This act criminalizes the dissemination of materials that help people wave over copyright laws. This single act limited the freedom of speech, the creation of content, scientific research, and even free expression. These laws marked the official beginning of internet censorship as a whole.
A Brief History of Censorship
The origin of the term censor came from Rome, in 443 BC as a result of the need of the roman empire to censor political and philosophical views. Notably, censorship reforms only began in Russia in a single decade (1855-1865) during the reign of Tsar Alexander II.
In 1766, Sweden became the first country to abolish censorship by laws. In 1998, China created the “Golden Shield Initiative” (Now the Great Fire Wall Of China) This program was created to limit the public’s access to sensitive materials that were viewed as disruptive and as a threat to the Chinese government.
Not long after the creation of VPNs, Bitcoin was invented by Satoshi Nakamoto, and it has been used to perform transactions, and circumvent restrictive censorship laws.
What Is the Purpose of Internet Censorship?
Internet censorship is placed on a person, or a group of people to establish control over the information they are allowed to see, read, process, or publish. Whether a parent is placing restrictions on a child, or a network provider is limiting access to specific sites, all internet censorship laws and actions stem from the desire or need to establish control.
After establishing control, internet censorship can also be used by a government or institution to maintain control. For example, China has placed numerous restrictions to access to services with a history of data collection and distribution like Google and Facebook. By restricting access to these two services, the Chinese government controls the dissemination of their citizen’s personal data and is able to safeguard their interests.
Internet censorship can also be placed on some materials if they are considered dangerous or undesirable. For example, the United States places heavy censorship on traffic with certain keywords, Ip addresses, or domain names. In most instances, this is done to stop communication between potentially dangerous groups.
Although most internet censorship programs are created to establish control, their reason for censoring the information they control is not always clear. For example, Facebook has taken down all pictures of mothers breastfeeding, and Twitter banned pictures of Alex Jones. There was no particular reason or motivation for the ban on those pictures.
Censorship can also be placed on individuals who break certain rules enforced by a company or organization. There have been instances where certain individuals have been banned from Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other major service providers because they broke certain rules or conditions they previously agreed to observe.
The Pitfalls of Internet Censorship
Although large organizations and governmental bodies present internet censorship as a necessary evil that allows them to protect the users of the internet, it tends to do more harm than good to the people that actually depend on the internet.
It can affect the business and progress of the people it has been placed on in 2017, China cracked down on VPNs and totally cut off access to resources like DropBox, Google Scholar, Facebook, and other western-based internet services. This newly placed restriction jeopardized the lives and livelihood of numerous entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors.
As a tool of authoritarian government to repress democracy and education in Egypt and China, the government had withheld information from its citizens and used their ignorance as justification for their government or regime.
It Stifles Creativity and Scientific Progress
Copyright laws enforced by the DMCA have always been used by companies and organizations as weapons to control online discourse and competitors. What started out as a shield created to protect the works of creatives has become one of the biggest obstacles to innovation
Forms of Internet Censorship
Internet censorship comes in different forms. Some of the most popular forms of internet censorships are;
These are laws passed that restrict access to specific websites, materials, and content.
● DNS tampering
This occurs when the user is redirected before they are able to access specific content.
● IP blocking
This restricts certain up addresses from accessing websites and other sensitive materials.
● Keyword filtering
Removal of certain keywords from content
● Packet filtering
Packet filtering monitors outgoing and incoming pockets or up Ip addresses.
● Rules created by user-based applications
Apps and services like Google and social media tend to prompt users to agree to certain rules before they use their apps and services.
● Regional access
Certain regions deny access to users who are not from the supported regions. For example, Steam is not available in many African countries.
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